|Woman Glancing to the Side, S. Myers |
Charcoal and Conte on Paper
It’s always wise to view your artwork, during creation, from the same angle you intend to use once you are finished. If it’s to be hung on the wall, work with it upright. When a larger picture lies flat, there is always an element of foreshortening.
I take angles into serious account with my sculpture; if it’s an object intended to sit on a high pedestal, I clamber around under it and make sure the shapes function from below; if the art is made for a position like that on a low table, I work with it at hand-height or lower.
But last night I wholly forgot to apply the rule with my drawing. The result was that, while the sketch was lying on the table or the floor it looked quite handsome; but jerked upright it was an altogether different piece. The cheeks were distressingly lax; in some areas flow of the modeling was totally lost. I needed to pull the picture out of distortion, and quickly.
Foreshortening on a two-dimensional piece can be used skillfully as a visual trick; the formal name for this is anamorphosis. I don’t believe many examples have been produced in the realm of fine art, but Holbein used it famously in his Ambassadors, where a viewer standing in front will see only a dignified double portrait with an inexplicable brown and white streak in the foreground. If the viewer moves well to the left, however, this strange shape foreshortens and resolves itself into a skull.
I had no intention of producing an anamorphosis that appealed only in the horizontal. After my surprise and recalculation, I taped the drawing to my closet door and finished it from that angle. This helped the picture considerably. But it also dismayed my Schnauzer, who woke up from a late nap to see the charcoal face staring across the room. I cannot imagine the drawing realistic enough (from a dog’s point of view) to produce hostility; but she kept her eye on it and continued fretting and growling until I took my newest artwork off the wall once more.